NEW YORK, 26 February 2020 – Nearly nine years of conflict have brought about sweeping and protracted changes in the lives of Syrian people. Syrians are adapting to a ‘new normal’ as it relates to new livelihood strategies, new ways of accessing education, and new gender roles. Syrian women, both inside Syria and who are refugees in neighboring countries, have entered the workforce in much larger numbers, and are doing jobs often seen as being only for men, according to two new CARE reports entitled, “Understanding Resilience” and “Syrian Refugee Women’s Roles”.
“The death, injury, disappearance, and displacement of Syrian men has forced many women to adapt their traditional roles. Syrian women have had to learn new skills, forge new social networks, and change the way they perceive their own roles, and rights. They now have more power, decision making authority, and, importantly, a voice,” said Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for CARE in the Middle East and North Africa.
“As we begin to start contemplating a post-conflict Syria, it is absolutely crucial that women are at the front and center of efforts to build a sustainable peace. The evidence clearly shows that when women are not front and center of such efforts, there can be no sustainable peace. But as the report shows, ensuring women’s participation even at the community level will not be an easy trajectory,” said Ambassador James Roscoe, Head of Open Societies and Partnerships at the UK Mission to the UN.
CARE’s 2020 “Understanding Resilience” and “Syrian Refugee Women’s Roles” studies similarly found that women are taking on roles they simply did not have before: roughly 72% of respondents of the study in Syria and 83% of women in the refugee study indicated having had at least one new livelihood strategy since the start of the conflict.
“Syrian women have shown a strong willingness and ability to adapt to the realities of their new situation. Their newfound confidence, strength, and sense of competency must be recognized and reinforced. More than ever, it is critical that we provide Syrian women with our collective support, as they overcome severe hardship. They are the key to their country’s future,” said Shawky.
“Understanding Resilience: Perspectives from Syrians” identifies social capital as the most critical and consistently cited source of support from families and individuals facing conflict-related shocks and disruptions to their lives. Social networks are an indispensable safety net. In the midst of active conflict, people relied on one another to absorb shocks, stay safe and survive. People who have strong social networks in a location that they have been displaced to are more likely to effectively adapt to that new location.
In “Syrian Refugee Women’s Roles“, many women report increased confidence and influence in family decision making, as both “the breadwinner” and “mother and father”. This has also brought about new feelings of empowerment and independence, and has changed some views on marriage and degree of agency they have in making decisions about their relationships. But this dual role also brings stress and exhaustion, as women fulfill both the role of full-time breadwinner, as well as primary caregiver and homemaker. This has compounded the psycho-social stress associated with nine years of conflict and for many, repeated displacement.
On the other hand, some women interviewed indicated a desire to return to the traditional role they had always imagined for themselves. While change was necessary for survival, there continue to be many pressures from both family and community for women to return to more traditional roles.
The studies also found that many women both inside and outside Syria reported that they found the change in their roles difficult, but positive, indicating that they were mostly happy to have the opportunities to work and earn income for themselves, despite the ensuing intense pressures. Working and contributing income has vastly increased the confidence of many women and their belief in their own abilities. Overwhelmingly, these women have a new found sense of confidence, competence, and empowerment that needs support, whether it is exhibited in women as leaders outside the home, or as strong, confident women inside the home.
Notes to editors:
- CARE carried out field research between April 2018 to August 2019 to further examine resilience strategies and challenges among Syrians affected by war, and to understand how to effectively support those capacities to ultimately enhance resilience. Overall, this research represents the views and experiences of 382 Syrians, including 214 women, residing in 11 Syrian governorates, as well as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
- CARE has been providing aid in Syria since 2014, and has reached more than 5 million people so far. Over the last year, CARE has reached more than 1 million people in Syria, including more than 650,000 women. Our work is focused on food security, livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, shelter, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health support, and psycho-social support for people in crisis.
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Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE stands with women and girls around the world in economic empowerment. We bring women, girls, and their communities together to challenge inequality while facing issues like food insecurity, climate change, and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster. CARE works in 100 countries around the world.
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